DO YOU KNOW? Gail Wright

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DO YOU KNOW? Gail Wright

Gail Wright grew up in Manheim, a small Texas town close to Giddings, which is just a little over 97 miles southwest of Huntsville. Here her parents, Ethel and Marvin Wilson, owned a 380-acre family farm where they raised pigs, cattle, sheep, and also harvested various crops like corn and peanuts. “I remember putting what we harvested in the back of daddy’s truck and taking it into town to sell,” said Gail. Her father was a physical education teacher at Brenham State School, and her mother was a homemaker, and a seamstress. 

“My mother loved to sew, and she did this her whole life. She would make dresses for me and my sister out of feed sacks. She would also often sew for people in the community. Her trips into town always involved stopping at the fabric store to buy material. She had so much material.” 

Since there wasn’t a school in Manheim, Gail and her sister Brenda rode the school bus to and from Giddings, to attend school. Gail graduated from Giddings High School in 1977 and went on to Blinn Junior College in Brenham, where she received an Associate of Arts in Home Economics. Then she came to Huntsville to pursue her undergraduate degree at Sam Houston State University. In 1981, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching in Home Economics Education. Fourteen years later, she obtained her master’s degree in Consumer Services, Fashion & Design. 

When and how did you meet your husband Doug? 

Doug and I met in 1979, when he was a manager at Wendy’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers on Sam Houston Avenue, right across the street from the University, which was perfect, since the Home Economics Buildings was right across the street. I was still going to school at the time, and I needed to work to pay for my school. My dad had a brain tumor and had been in coma for 3 1/2 years before he passed away. Doug and I were married on June 5, 1981. After that, Doug went to work at Tri-County HMR as a job coach, and I was a program manager for a shelter workshop. We did that for 3 ½ years, and then we decided we both wanted to work in education, so we both applied to Sam Houston State University, and we were both hired! He began working at the Financial Aid office, and I was hired as the Correspondence Course Coordinator for the Correspondence Course Division, independent study program. I worked that program for 25 years, and Doug worked in Financial Aid for 23 years. During this time, we had our two daughters, Erika and Kaylynne. Life was great! We would come home, work in our gardens, and we were able to spend time with the girls…it was just great! 

What is Partner’s Resource Center, and how did you get involved? 

Partner’s Resource Network, or PRN, is the state’s PTI (Parent Training and Information Center) for parents of children with disabilities; it works under the IDEA (Individuals Disability Education Act), a law tailored to provide assistance and resources to children with disabilities. While I was working at Sam Houston State University, my oldest daughter Erika developed a condition called Myasthenia Gravis, which is a neuromuscular autoimmune disorder that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles used for movement. Due to this illness, she had to undergo several surgeries, and had to have a spinal fusion in her back because she developed weakness in her back leading to Scoliosis. She became a wheelchair user, so I needed to learn all I could to make sure she received the assistance she needed while she was in school. 

Somewhere along this same time, my husband Doug, was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure, which occurs with the gradual loss of kidney function until it reaches an advanced state in which the kidneys are no longer able to function on their own, allowing the body to work properly. It has been 20 years since his first kidney transplant, and he is now on a waiting list for a second, since after 20 years, the transplanted kidney no longer functions as it should.  

At the time, I was working full-time, and taking care of both my daughters and husband. Through my own experiences, and knowing others were going through similar situations, I found a connection through Partner’s Resource Network. I began as a volunteer, and soon took on a part-time position, and I have been with them since.  Through my work with PRN, I try to educate the parents about their child’s disability, provide information about their rights, and about their responsibilities. I was able to educate myself about laws and resources available to better assist and provide for my daughter’s needs while she was in school. I’ve been volunteering all these years, talking to parents over the phone, and now during COVID, providing emotional support through ZOOM platform, social media, email, as well as phone and text messaging. 

During my early years as a volunteer with the Partners Resource Network, I also co-founded HAND-IN-HAND, a parent support group for parents of children with special needs in Walker County. In 1997, as a result of my volunteer efforts with PRN and other groups, I was chosen as one of the Partners Resource Network (PATH Project) Volunteers of the Year for the state of Texas. 

How is your daughter Erika today? 

Erika is doing great! She always had a lot of determination.  When she was in 8th grade, she began wanting to participate in different things, and she asked to have her wheelchair removed. One of her interests was Karate, and despite our fears, she persevered and became a black belt. She went on to college, got her degree, and is now married. Last March, our first grand-baby Luka was born, and he’s been a joy! 

In the middle of all you had going on, when did you decide to become a small business owner? 

I always wanted to use my skills in something I truly enjoyed. Like my mother, I loved to sew, and she’s probably the reason I wanted to major in Home Economics. In 2005, my husband bought me two embroidering machines. It just so happened that Macy’s out of New York was looking for people to contract out who could do embroidering for them on the spot. My lifelong dream was to be a home economics certified teacher, but I never got to do that. I wanted to work in something in my field, so when I saw the opportunity with Macy’s, I jumped on it, and that’s how “Designs by Gail Custom Embroidery” was started. 

What services does Designs by Gail Custom Embroidery offer, and how can you be contacted? 

We offer personalized embroidered items that are great gifts for any occasion. Our most popular items right now are masks and embroidered logos on company or school shirts. Now is a great time to find the right gift for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or even Christmas! If you need a personalized birthday or anniversary gift, we can help you find the perfect gift. I can be contacted by phone at 936.581.2045, via email: designergail@yahoo.com, or by visiting our website: http://designsbygail.weebly.com.  

What do you enjoy doing when you are not at work? 

Our grandson Luka arrived last March, and he’s been a joy! We really enjoy spending time with him. Doug and I also like to garden.

“Gail grows things to look at, and I grow things to eat,” Doug adds. 

I like succulents. They multiply, and I like giving them to people to make them feel good. We also enjoy traveling, but haven’t had the opportunity since COVID. We like to go fishing, watch a good movie, and go to church. We are members of Family Faith church.

Has COVID affected or changed your lives in any way? 

It has not affected business at all. During quarantine, customers would email, text, or call us with their ideas, and have been respectful of our social distancing throughout COVID. Morgan Nauls is a student that has worked with us for the past 5 years. She knows the operation pretty well and can run the office on her own when we are away for other appointments. 

As far as our personal lives, wearing masks and sanitizing, is nothing new for us. Because of Doug’s transplant being immune suppressed, we’ve always worn masks and sanitized. On a positive note, I do think COVID has opened up new possibilities by introducing a whole new way of delivering services to the public.

You’ve lived in Huntsville a long time, what do you like about living here? 

Its small, friendly, and it has been a great place to live and raise our kids. At one point, we thought about living in the Austin area, but we ended up staying. All in all, life here has been good. We’ve been able to enjoy our work, our community, and each other.  

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